92: Managing Disruptive Behaviors in Meetings

You’ve planned a thoughtful agenda, sent materials as pre-work, and done everything in your power to set the meeting up for success. But then…someone takes the conversation off track. Or keeps bringing up old business and wants to rehash a decision. Or won’t stop talking. These disruptive meeting behaviors can make it hard to accomplish even the best planned meeting objectives. Effective meeting leaders are prepared to facilitate through these moments of tension to keep the meeting on track.

The full episode guide includes an overview of five common disruptive behaviors and how to facilitate through them. Get it when you join the Modern Manager community or purchase the full guide at themodernmanager.com/shop.

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Read the related blog article: Put an End to These Disruptive Meeting Behaviors

Key Takeaways:

  • Most people aren’t intentionally being disruptive. They’re simply unaware of the impact of their behavior.
  • By making people self-aware or clarifying expectations, many people will begin to self-regulate.
  • Disruptive behavior 1: going off on tangents. This happens because the agenda isn’t clear, they’re particularly excited about a topic, or something is on their mind that is holding their attention.
  • When the conversation goes off track, acknowledge the new topic and suggest returning to the agenda at hand. Offer to schedule a follow up specifically on the open topic and use a backburner to document off-agenda topics for future discussion.
  • Disruptive behavior 2: hogging the mic. This happens because extraverts talk to think, people struggle with being succinct, and/or time does not feel urgent.
  • When someone is taking up all the air space, offer to speak with them another time in order to ensure you hear from everyone during this meeting.
  • Disruptive behavior 3: naysaying or revisiting old content. This happens when something feels unsettled or the person is emotionally distracted.
  • When someone is naysaying, help them put their work in perspective of the larger effort. Acknowledge their concern and offer to address it outside of the meeting. Reinforce that this meeting has a particular agenda or focus. Include a ‘devil’s advocate time’ on the agenda for everyone to share any concerns.
  • Disruptive behavior 4: someone is distracted by their technology. This happens when people shouldn’t be in that meeting, they’re bored or have a lot on their mind.
  • When people are distracted by technology, gently encourage them to put it away inn order to participate. Start by establishing norms for tech use.
  • If addressing the behavior during the meeting is not effective, talk to the person one-on-one to let them know how their behavior is disruptive to you and/or the team and engage them in finding an appropriate solution.

Additional Resources:


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